KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: England manager Gareth Southgate promised an “enjoyable occasion” for his players and Wembley’s fans before the friendly with Iceland which propelled the Three Lions to the Euro finals in Germany.

How wrong could be have been. England lost 1-0, an occasion which was the antithesis of enjoyable – except of course for Iceland and their fans.

The anticipated big send-off for one of the Euro favourites was a massive letdown. Pre-tournament test matches are often disappointing but not usually this bad. England have won only one of their last five matches. Half of an official attendance of 81,410 had left for home by the time the final whistle sparked a sheepish, anti-climatic bon voyage.

It had all seemed so positive, 24 hours earlier, after Southgate’s earlier-than-expected announcement of his 26-man squad.

England lining up to face Iceland

That was to reckon without an Iceland team whose predecessors, infamously, had ousted England from the kncokout stages of the 2016 Euro finals in France. That was the defeat prompting the managerial merry-go-round which eventually led to Southgate’s appointment.

The visitors sprang their perfect follow-up after a mere 12 minutes They carved open England’s defence with a quick left-wing raid from which Hakon Arnar Haraldsson sent on Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson to outpace John Stones and shoot low past Aaron Ramsdale on the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

Southgate had sensed beforehand that “everyone is excited to watch the teams [with] a lovely blend of youth and experience in the group.”

Not excited for long, however. A team with perhaps eight of the Euro starters did start at a lively lick. Phil Foden, in the No10 role, linked well with Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon on the wings. But Gordon struggled to make his mark while Chelsea’s Palmer wasted England’s first chance after defensive confusion when his shot was deflected for a corner.

The Chelsea forward was the pick of the England attack, always looking for the ball and trying to test out the disciplined defensive phalanx which Iceland massed around their penalty box at the first sign of any danger.

But, after Palmer chipped neatly across the penalty box, Harry Kane shot uncharacteristically high over the bar from close range.

Iceland might even have extended their lead just before halftime when Thorsteinsson outpaced the England defence and Marc Guehi was barely in time to divert Arnor Traustasson’s drive for a corner.

The early minutes of the second half saw the energetic Foden and Palmer, again, create a couple of half chances but, as time ran on, England managed only much of same, plenty of will but little creation or penetration.

Southgate, having sent on Ezra Konsa at halftime for Stones, made four more changes in the 64th minute. By then England were fortunate not to be two goals down. Minutes earlier Iceland had broken down the right only for Thorsteinsson to miss badly from close range after Haraldsson’s right-wing cross.

Iceland contributed another close call in the 75th minute when England failed to clear a corner and Kolbein Finnsson’s long-range hooked shot was pushed up and over the bar by Ramsdale.

By this time a much-changed England were all over the place, flinging the ball towards the Iceland goal with more hope than judgment. Iceland had never won at Wembley before. They will not forget this match in a hurry.

Nor, for very different reasons, will England.

The teams:

England: Ramsdale – Walker (Alexander-Arnold 46), Stones (Konsa 46), Guehi, Trippier (Gomes 64) – Mainoo, Rice – Palmer (Eze 77), Foden, Gordon (Saka 64) – Kane (Toney 64).

Iceland: Valdimarsson – Bjarkason, Gretarsson, Ingason, Finnsson – Traustason, Gudmundsson (Sigurdsson 81), Haraldsson (Johanesson 81) – Thorsteinsson (Fridriksson 90), Gudjohnsen, Anderson (Thordarsson 64).

Referee: Davide Massa (Italy).